Rewilding at Sharpham

What is rewilding

Rewilding at Sharpham: Making space for nature

Ambios is a not-for-profit nature conservation training organisation based in South Devon. Since 2012 we have been tenants of land on the Sharpham Estate, in the Dart Valley, South Devon AONB. 

In April 2020 we took a big step in taking on an additional 50 acres of pasture on the Sharpham estate in South Devon with the vision of rewilding it.

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The land is part of an 18th century parkland landscape and is a busy recreational venue with extensive public access and broad ranging stakeholder interest. This new venture provides a unique opportunity to share rewilding with a large and diverse audience; a core motivation of both Ambios and our landlords The Sharpham Trust. The commitment to rewilding is strengthened by a drive to demonstrate a working model based on social-enterprise approach and as a tenant farmer rather than a landowner.

Our intentions for Sharpham

We have two complementary strategies for restoring this part of the Estate. In 2020, the Sharpham Trust secured a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for developing rewilding education and outreach programmes over a period of 3 years – this project is known as ‘Sharpham Wild For People’. Then in 2021, we entered into a 5 year Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship agreement which supports us in the recovery of the countryside for future generations. 

This work sees us:

We're doing this by:

  • reducing grazing with a diversified range of animals including rare breed cows and periodically pigs to mimic natural grazing processes, encouraging enrichment of vegetation
  • planting new native trees in great numbers to restore the late 18th century parkland
  • ecological monitoring of birds, bats, mammals, reptiles, butterflies, earthworms and soil chemistry to document the ecological benefits of rewilding and provide our trainees with hands-on experience. It is hoped that this will help in securing future funding and serve as an example to other landowners how to effectively evidence rewilding processes
  • people engagement with volunteer opportunities, traineeships, walks and talks and visits from school groups

The future

Our project is well underway and the benefits of the rewilding process should continue for generations.  

We have a long-term vision to rewild the land surrounding the River Dart estuary, in partnership with our local neighbours and landowners, to restore missing wildlife and connect valuable habitats. In the meantime, there’s so much more we plan to do, with the support of our trainees and volunteers, starting with:

  • Retaining trees, scrub and hedges including dead wood and trees
  • Green haying and seed spreading from adjacent species-rich areas of grassland
  • Locating land drains and then in-filling to promote natural groundwater conditions
  • Continuing and diversifying ecological monitoring
  • Developing interpretation resources and a range of publicly accessible online educational materials

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